CHAPTER II. FIRST KNOWLEDGE OF IMPENDING CONFLICT, 1860-61.
"Many persons in the United States talk of a dissolution of
the Union, but few believe in it.... All this is mere bravado
and empty talk. It means nothing. The Union is dear to all
Americans, whatever they may say to the contrary.... There is
no present danger to the Union, and the violent expressions
to which over-ardent politicians of the North and South
sometimes give vent have no real meaning. The 'Great West,'
as it is fondly called, is in the position even now to
arbitrate between North and South, should the quarrel stretch
beyond words, or should anti-slavery or any other question
succeed in throwing any difference between them which it
would take revolvers and rifles rather than speeches and
votes to put an end to."
The slavery controversy in America had, in short, come to be regarded in England as a constant quarrel between North and South, but of no immediate danger to the Union. Each outbreak of violent American controversy produced a British comment sympathetic with the North. The turmoil preceding and following the election of Lincoln in 1860, on the platform of "no extension of slavery," was very generally noted by the British press and public, as a sign favourable to the cause of anti-slavery, but with no understanding that Southern threat would at last be realized in definite action. Herbert Spencer, in a letter of May 15, 1862, to his American friend, Yeomans, wrote, "As far as I had the means of judging, the feeling here was at first very decidedly on the side of the North ..." The British metropolitan press, in nearly every issue of which for at least two years after December, 1860, there appeared news items and editorial comment on the American crisis, was at first nearly unanimous in condemning the South. TheTimes, with accustomed vigour, led the field. On November 21, 1860, it stated: